Emergency Care For You

Holiday Season Alcohol Abuse Can Lead To ER Visits, Even Death

The holiday season is a wonderful time for family, friends and building fond memories.  But it’s also a time to remember safety when it comes to drinking alcohol.  The nation’s emergency physicians are warning against excessive alcohol consumption and urging people to use good judgment. 

“Very few things are more heartbreaking than to see a family suffer the loss of a loved one because of an alcohol-related tragedy, and during the holidays, people take risks,” said Dr. Sandra Schneider of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  “A fun holiday celebration can turn into a nightmare in the blink of an eye, and it can happen to anyone, and we don’t want that to happen.” 

Seventy-nine thousand deaths occur annually as a direct result of excessive alcohol use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Many more are injured.   

“Alcohol-related injuries are not always driving-related incidents like some may assume,” said Dr. Schneider. “Emergency physicians have treated patients who have been seriously injured while decorating a home for the holidays.” 

Dr. Schneider said emergency physicians have seen alcohol-related injuries that range from serious falls from stringing lights on roofs and climbing ladders to using dangerous power tools incorrectly and doing tasks that require significant amounts of balance.  

“These activities are dangerous under any circumstances,” said Dr. Schneider. “When you add alcohol to the mix, all of a sudden cognitive skills are lessened, personal judgments change, and your ability to think coherently is decreased.” 

Heavy drinking over time can also lead to high blood pressure and even damage the heart.  Those with heart conditions can put themselves at great risk if they drink or eat excessively during the holidays.  Some people can also be affected by a condition known as “holiday heart syndrome.”   This condition is basically an irregular heartbeat pattern that may develop largely because of excessive drinking in people who are otherwise healthy individuals. 

Of course, drunk driving is also a major concern throughout the year, especially around the holiday season.

“Drunk driving is 100-percent preventable,” said Dr. Schneider.  “Don’t get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve had too much to drink.  You are not only a danger to yourself, but also to everyone else on the road.”